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Special Activities Division

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The Special Activities Division (SAD) is a division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service, responsible for covert action and "special activities". These special activities include covert political influence and paramilitary operations. Within SAD there are two separate groups. One for paramilitary operations and another for political influence. [1] Special Operations Group (SOG) is the element within SAD responsible for paramilitary operations. These operations include the collection of intelligence in hostile and/or denied areas and all high threat military and/or intelligence operations when the US government does not wish to be overtly associated with such activities. [2] As such, members of the unit (called Paramilitary Operations Officers) when on missions, normally do not carry any objects or clothing (e.g., military uniforms) [3] that would associate them with the United States. If compromised during a mission, the government of the United States may legally deny their status and all knowledge of their mission. SAD/SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers are a majority of the recipients of the coveted Distinguished Intelligence Cross and the Intelligence Star, the two highest medals for valor in the CIA. Not surprisingly, they also make up the majority of those memorialized on the CIA Memorial Wall. [4]

Overview

As the National Clandestine Service's action arm, SAD/SOG conducts military direct action missions such as raids, ambushes, sabotage, targeted assassinations, [5] [6] [7] unconventional warfare (e.g. training and leading guerrilla and military units of other countries in combat). SAD/SOG also conducts Special reconnaissance, that can be under either military or intelligence, but is carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers when in denied areas. [8]

Another group within SAD conducts deniable psychological operations, also known as black propaganda, "Political Action" and "Covert Influence" to affect political change as an important part of the President's foreign policy.[9] Some examples of political action programs were the prevention of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) from winning elections between 1948 and the late 1960s; overthrowing the government of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Indonesia in1957 and in providing funds and support to the trade union Solidarity following the imposition of martial law in Poland after 1981. [10]

SAD provides the President of the United States an option when overt military and/or diplomatic actions are not viable or are not politically feasible. SAD can be directly tasked by the President of the United States or the National Security Council at the President's direction. This is unlike any other US national mission force. However, SAD's SOG is smaller than most of the other special missions units such as Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. [11] [12] [13]

SAD's existence became better understood as a result of the "Global War on Terror". Beginning in autumn of 2001, SAD/SOG Paramilitary teams arrived in Afghanistan to hunt down Al Qaeda leaders, facilitate the entry of US Army Special Forces and aid the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan against the ruling Taliban. SAD/SOG units also defeateAnsar al-Islam]] in northern Iraq prior to the invasion in 2003 [14] [15] and trained, equipped, organized and led the Kurdish forces to defeat the Iraqi army in Iraqi Kurdistan. [16][17] Despite being the most covert unit in US Special Operations, numerous books have been published on the exploits of CIA paramilitary officers, including Feet to the Fire: CIA Covert Operations in Indonesia, 1957-1958 by Kenneth J. Conboy and James Morrison [18] and Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos by Roger Warner. [19]

Most experts consider SAD/SOG the primary force for unconventional warfare, whether that warfare consists of conducting counterinsurgency operations or in creating an insurgency in a foreign country. [20] [21] [22] SAD/SOG selects its operators from the most elite units in the U.S. military, such as the Navy's SEAL teams (especially the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six), the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (also known as the Combat Application Group (CAG)), U.S. Army Special Forces (also known as Green Berets), US Army Rangers, and the Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance detachments Marine Special Operations Command. [23]

There remains some conflict between the National Clandestine Service and the more clandestine parts of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), [24] such as the Joint Special Operations Command. This is usually confined to the civilian/political heads of the respective Department/Agency. The combination of SAD and USSOCOM units has resulted in some of the most notable successes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [25] SAD/SOG has several missions. One of these missions is the recruiting, training, and leading of indigenous forces in combat operations. [26] SAD/SOG and its successors have been used when it was considered desirable to have plausible deniability about US support of the force (this is called a covert operation or "covert action"). Only SAD is authorized by law to conduct this kind of mission. [27] Unlike other special missions units, SAD operatives combine special operations and clandestine intelligence capabilities in one individual. [28] These individuals can operate in any environment (Sea, Air or Ground) with limited to no support. These Paramilitary Operations Officer are from the Special Operations Group (SOG) of SAD, which is considered the world's most elite special operations unit. [29]

Covert action

The CIA's authorities to collect intelligence, conduct counterintelligence and to conduct Covert Action comes from the National Security Act of 1947. [30] President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12333 titled "United States Intelligence Activities" in 1984. This order defined covert action as "special activities", both political and military, that the US Government could legally deny and granted them exclusively to the CIA. The CIA was also designated as the sole authority under the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act and mirrored in Title 50 of the United States Code Section 413(e). [31] [32] The CIA must have a "Presidential Finding" issued by the President of the United States in order to conduct these activities under the Hughes-Ryan amendment to the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act. [33] These finding are then monitored by the oversight committees in both the US Senate, called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House of Representatives, called the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). [34] As a result of this framework, the CIA has the most oversight of any of the government agencies. [35]

Every President since George Washington has used covert action as a part of their broader foreign policy, whether Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. [36] A majority of these covert action operations were successful. Most of the operations that were not successful were directed by the President over the objections of the CIA. [37] Some of the most controversial "covert action" programs, such as the Iran-Contra, were neither covert action nor executed by the CIA. [38] Covert action programs are also much less expensive than overt political or military actions. [39] The Pentagon commissioned a study to determine whether the CIA or the Department of Defense (DoD) should conduct covert action paramilitary operations. Their study determined that the CIA should maintain this capability and be the "sole government agency conducting covert action". The DoD found that it does not have the legal authority to conduct covert action, nor the agility to carry out these types of missions. [40]

Selection and training

SAD/SOG has several hundred officers, almost all of them former members of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) units. These units include the U.S. Army's Delta Force, the Navy SEALs, United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), 75th Ranger Regiment (United States)|Army Rangers, Special Forces (United States Army) and United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance teams. The CIA's formal position for these individuals is "Paramilitary Operations Officers". These officers are then fully trained as clandestine intelligence operatives, otherwise known as spies. [41] The primary strengths of SAD/SOG Paramilitary Officers are agility, adaptability, and deniability. They often operate in small teams, typically with six operators, all with extensive military special operations expertise and specialized skills that do not exist in any other unit. [42]

They are also fully trained intelligence officers with all the clandestine skills that come with that training. These officers often operate in remote locations behind enemy lines to carry out direct action (military) (including raids and sabotage), support of espionage by HUMINT assets, counter-intelligence, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, and hostage rescue missions. Within the Special Operations Group of SAD, there are three elements. These elements are Air Branch, Maritime Branch, and Ground Branch. Together, SAD/SOG has a complete combined arms covert military. Paramilitary Operations Officers are the core of each branch and routinely move between the branches to gain expertise in all aspects of SOG. [43] As such, Paramilitary Operations Officers are trained to operate in all of these areas and environments. Because these officers are taken from the most elite units in the U.S. Military and then provided the additional training to be CIA clandestine intelligence officers and training to be SAD/SOG operatives in all these environments, most national security experts assess them as the most elite of the US special missions units. [44]

SAD, like the rest of the CIA, requires a bachelor's degree to be considered for employment. It is not unusual for SAD/SOG officers to also have graduate degrees and/or degrees from Ivy League schools. Many of the officers from the political influence group within SAD, have Ph.D's from the nation's most prestigious schools to include Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. [45] SAD officers are trained at Camp Peary, Virginia (also known as "The Farm") and at privately owned training centers around the United States. They also train its personnel at Harvey Point, a facility outside of Hertford, North Carolina. [46] [47] In addition to the two years of training to be a clandestine intelligence officer, Paramilitary Operations Officers are trained to a level of high proficiency in the use and tactics of an unusually wide degree of modern weaponry, explosive devices and firearms (foreign and domestic), hand to hand combat, high performance driving (on- and off-road), apprehension avoidance (including picking handcuffs and escaping from confinement), improvised explosive devices, Military Free Fall parachuting, combat and commercial SCUBA] and closed circuit diving, small and in some cases large boat handling, foreign languages, hasty and detailed disguises, entry operations and vehicle "hotwiring", Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), survival skills/extreme survival and wilderness training, first responder combat Emergency medical services (EMS) medical training, tactical communications and tracking. These are just some of the skill sets required of these Paramilitary Operations Officers. [48]

History

World War II

While the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) technically was a military agency under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in practice it was fairly autonomous of military control and enjoyed direct access to Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Major General William Joseph Donovan was the head of the OSS. Donovan was a soldier and medal of honor recipient from World War One. He was also a lawyer and former law school classmate of FDR. [49] Like the subsequent CIA, OSS included both HUMINT and special operations paramilitary functions. Its Secret Intelligence division was responsible for espionage, while its Jedburgh teams, a joint US-UK-French unit, were an ancestor of groups that create guerrilla units, such at the U.S. Army Special Forces and the CIA. OSS' Operational Groups were larger US units that carried out direct action (DA) behind enemy lines. Even during WWII, the idea of intelligence and special operations units not under strict military control was controversial. OSS operated primarily in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and to some extent in the China-Burma-India Theater, while General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was extremely reluctant to have any OSS personnel within his area of operations.

From 1943-1945, the OSS also played a major role in training Nationalist Chinese troops in China and Burma, and recruited other indigenous irregular forces for sabotage as well as guides for Allied forces in China Burma India Theater of World War II fighting the Japanese Army. OSS also helped arm, train and supply resistance movements, including Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army in China and the [Viet Minh]] in French Indochina, in areas occupied by the [[Axis powers of World War II|Axis powers during the World War II. Other functions of the OSS included the use of propaganda, espionage, subversion, and post-war planning.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the OSS during World War II was its penetration of Nazi Germany by OSS operatives. The OSS was responsible for training German and Austrian commandos for missions inside Germany. Some of these agents included exiled communists and socialist party members, labor activists, anti-Nazi POWs, and German and Jewish refugees. At the height of its influence during World War II, the OSS employed almost 24,000 people. [50]

OSS Paramilitary Officers parachuted into many countries that were behind enemy lines to include France, Norway and Greece. In Crete, OSS paramilitary officers linked up with, equipped and fought along side Greek resistance forces against the Nazi occupation. The resistance to the German operation to invade and occupy Crete delayed Adolf Hitler's planned Operation Barbarossa invasion of Russia. This delay resulted in German forces being trapped in the brutal Russian winter and contributed to their eventual defeat. [51][52]

OSS was disbanded shortly after World War II, with its intelligence analysis functions moving temporarily into the US United States Department of State Department of State. Espionage and counterintelligence went into military units. The paramilitary and related functions went into an assortment of ad hoc groups such as the Office of Policy Coordination. Between the original creation of the CIA by the National Security Act of 1947 and various mergers and reorganizations through 1952. The mission of training and leading of guerrillas generally stayed in the United States Army Special Forces, but the missions that were required to remain covert went to the paramilitary arm of the CIA. The direct descendant of the OSS' special operations is the CIA's Special Activities Division.

Tibet

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the CIA inserted SAD paramilitary teams into Tibet to train and lead Tibetan resistance fighters against the People's Liberation Army. These teams selected and then trained Tibetan soldiers in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. [53] The SAD teams then advised and led these commandos against the Chinese, both from Nepal and India. In addition, SAD Paramilitary Officers were responsible for the Dalai Lama's clandestine escape to India, narrowly escaping capture and certain execution by the Chinese government. [54] US assistance to the Tibetan resistance ceased after the 1972 Nixon visit to China, after which the US and communist China normalised relations.

According to a book by retired CIA officer John Kenneth Knaus, entitled Orphans Of The Cold War: America And The Tibetan Struggle For Survival, Gyalo Thondup, the older brother of the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama, sent the CIA five Tibetan recruits. These recruits were then trained in paramilitary tactics on the island of Saipan, in the Northern Marianas. [55] Shortly afterwards, the five men were covertly returned to Tibet “to assess and organize the resistance” and selected another 300 Tibetans for training. These activities continued until President Richard Nixon's previously mentioned historic trip to China and were very successful in their resistance to the communist Chinese. [56]

Korea

The CIA sponsored a variety of activities during the Korean War. These activities included maritime operations behind North Korean lines. Yong Do Island, connected by a rugged isthmus to Pusan, served as the base for those operations. These operations were carried out by well-trained Korean guerrillas. The four principal US advisers responsible for the training and operational planning of those special missions were Dutch Kramer, Tom Curtis, George Atcheson and Joe Pagnella. All of these Paramilitary Operations Officer operated through the CIA’s front organization called the Joint Advisory Commission, Korea (JACK), headquartered at Tongnae, a village near Pusan, on the peninsula’s southeast coast. [57]

These paramilitary teams were responsible for numerous maritime raids and ambushes behind North Korean lines, as well as prisoner of war] rescue operations. These were the first maritime unconventional warfare units that trained indigenous forces as surrogates. They also provided a model, along with the other CIA-sponsored ground based paramilitary Korean operations, for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) activities conducted by the US military and the CIA/SAD in Vietnam. [58] [59] In addition, CIA paramilitary ground-based teams worked directly for US military commanders, specifically with the 8th Army, on the "White Tiger" initiative. This initiative included inserting South Korean commandos and CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers prior to the two major amphibious assaults on North Korea, including the landing at Inchon. [60]

Cuba

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a CIA-planned and led operation launched from Florida, intended to overthrow the communist regime of Fidel Castro in April 1961. The invasion failed to remove Castro and resulted in the death of 114 and the capture of 1,189 members of the Cuban exile force called Brigade 2506. Four SAD/SOG officers were also killed in the invasion. The original planning for this operation began under President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration and was continued under President John F. Kennedy's. The plan was created by the CIA and approved by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after review by all the military service Chiefs. [61] The operation (code named Operation Zapata) originally called for an amphibious landing near the city of Trinidad, Cuba by the Escambray mountains. The plan also called for a substantial air component to include preparatory strikes against Castro's forces prior to the landing and considerable close air support to cover the movement of ground forces once they were engaged. The location for the landing was changed and a majority of air support was withdrawn by President John F. Kennedy because of fear of a public backlash. The force landed on 17 April and the fighting lasted until 21 April. CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers Grayston Lynch and William "Rip" Robertson were the first on the beach and led the invasion. Cuban army casualties are difficult to determine, but sources estimate them to be in the thousands (between 2,000 and 5,000) mostly resulting from a number of failed counter-attacks to drive Brigade 2506 back into the sea. [62] This invasion followed the successful overthrow by the CIA of the Mosaddeq Government of Iran in Iran in 1953 [63] and the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954, [64] but was a failure both militarily and politically. [65]

Bolivia

At the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's behest, a parcel of montane dry forest in the remote Ñancahuazú region had been purchased by native Bolivian Communists for Che Guevara to use as a training area and base camp. The Soviet Union's KGB is widely believed to have supported this effort to train an army, the purpose of which was to overthrow the Bolivian government. [66] [67] Guevara's guerrilla force, operated as the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia; "National Liberation Army of Bolivia" (ELN)), was well equipped and scored a number of early successes against the Bolivian Army in the difficult terrain of the mountainous Camiri region. In the late 1960s, the CIA deployed teams of SAD Paramilitary Operations Officers to Bolivia to train the Bolivian army in order to counter the ELN. [68] These SAD teams linked up with US Army Special Forces and Bolivian Special Forces to track down and capture Che Guevara, the military leader of the Cuban Revolution. [69] On October 9, 1967, shortly after being captured, Guevara was executed by his captors on orders from Bolivian President René Barrientos over the objections of the CIA officers present. [70] [71] [72]

Vietnam and Laos

The original OSS mission in Vietnam under Major Archimedes Patti was to work with Ho Chi Minh in order to prepare his forces to assist the United States and their Allies of World War II in fighting the Japanese. After the end of World War II, the United States ignored the attempts of Ho Chi Minh to maintain a friendly relationship. The lack of engagement between the US and Vietnamese independence groups that were resisting the return of French colonial control after the end of WWII, angered Vietnamese groups. [73]

CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers trained and led Hmong tribesmen in Laos and Vietnam. This effort was considered a significant success, and the actions of these officers were not known for several years. Air America (airline) was the air component of the CIA's paramilitary mission in Southeast Asia and was responsible for all combat, logistics and search and rescue operations in Laos and certain sections of Vietnam. [74] The ethnic minority forces numbered in the tens of thousands and they conducted direct actions mission, led by Paramilitary Operations Officers, against the communist Pathet Lao forces and their North Vietnamese allies. [75]

Elements of SAD were seen in the CIA's Phoenix Program. One component of the Phoenix Program was involved in the alleged capture and assassinations of suspected Viet Cong members. [76] According to one view, Phoenix was a clear success. Between 1968 and 1972, Phoenix neutralized 81,740 National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) members, of whom 26,369 were killed. This was a large continguent of enemy killed between 1969 and 1971. The program was also successful in destroying their infrastructure. By 1970, Communist plans repeatedly emphasized attacking the government’s pacification program and specifically targeted Phoenix officials. The NLF also imposed quotas. In 1970, for example, Communist officials near Da Nang in northern South Vietnam instructed their assassins to “kill 400 persons” deemed to be government “tyrant[s]” and to “annihilate” anyone involved with the pacification program. Several North Vietnamese officials have made statements about the effectiveness of Phoenix. In the end, it was a direct conventional North Vietnamese military invasion, not the guerrilla insurgents, that defeated the South Vietnamese. [77] [78]

MAC-V SOG (Studies and Observations Group) (which was originally named the Special Operations Group, but was changed for cover purposes), was created and active during the Vietnam War. While CIA was just one part of MAC-V SOG, it did have operational control of some of the programs. Many of the military members of MAC-V SOG joined the CIA after their military service. The legacy of MAC-V SOG continues within SAD's Special Operations Group. [79]

Nicaragua

In 1979, the government of Nicaragua, led by the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, fell to the socialist Sandinistas. Once in power, the Sandinistas disbanded the Nicaraguan National Guard and arrested many of the soldiers. The soldiers that escaped formed the backbone of the Nicaraguan la contra-revolucion (the Counterrevolution or Contra). SAD/SOG paramiltary teams were deployed to train and lead these forces against the Sandinistas. There were also paramilitary activities based in Honduras and Costa Rica. Direct military aid by the United States was eventually forbidden by the Boland Amendment of the Defence Appropriations Act of 1983. The Boland Amendment was extended in October 1984 to forbid action by not only the Defense Department, but included the Central Intelligence Agency. [80] [81]

The Boland Amendment was a compromise because the US Democratic Party did not have enough votes for a comprehensive ban. It covered only appropriated funds spent by intelligence agencies. Some of Reagan's national security officials used non-appropriated money of the National Security Council (NSC) to circumvent the Amendment. NSC officials sought to arrange funding by third-parties. These efforts resulted in the Iran-Contra Affair of 1987, which concerned Contra funding through the proceeds of arms sales to Iran. No court ever made a determination whether Boland covered the NSC and because it was a prohibition rather than a criminal statute, no one could be indicted for violating it. Congress later resumed aid to the Contras, totaling over $300 million. The Contra war ended when the Sandinista government allowed free elections and was voted out of power in 1990. [82] [83] However, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was re-elected as President of Nicaragua in 2006 and took office again on January 10, 2007.

El Salvador

CIA personnel were also involved in the counter-insurgency in El Salvador. [84] Unable to stop the leftist insurgency, CIA paramilitary teams and US Army Special Forces set up and trained units (some commentators claim were patterned after the "Phoenix Program" in Vietnam) to combat the communist-backed FMLN members and sympathizers. [85] Some allege that the techniques used to interrogate prisoners in El Salvador foreshadowed those which would later be used in Iraq and Afghanistan. [86] In fact, when a similar counter-insurgency program was proposed in Iraq, it was referred to as "the Salvador Option". [87] On Sunday, March 15, 2009 an FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, was elected President. [88]

Somalia

SAD sent in teams of Paramilitary Operations Officers into Somalia prior to the invasion of US forces 1993. On 23, December 1992, Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman became the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator and Special Forces soldier who had served in every conflict that America was involved in, both officially and unofficially, since Vietnam. [89] [90] Freedman was killed while conducting special reconnaissance in advance of the entry of U.S. military forces. His mission was completely voluntary, as it required entry into a very hostile area without any support. His actions provided US forces with crucial intelligence in order to plan their eventual amphibious landing. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star on January 5, 1993 for his "extraordinary heroism". [91]

SAD/SOG teams were key in working with JSOC and tracking high value target's (HVT), known as "Tier One Personalities". Their efforts, working under extremely dangerous conditions with little to no support, led to several very successful joint JSOC/CIA operations. [92] In one specific operation, a legendary Paramilitary Operations Officer codenamed "Condor", working with a CIA Technical Operations Officer from the Directorate of Science and Technology, managed to get a cane with a beacon in it to Osman Ato, a wealthy businessman, arms importer and Mohammed Aideed money man whose name was right below Aideed’s on the Tier One list. Once Condor confimed that Ato was in a vehicle, JSOC's Delta Force launched a capture operation.

"a Little Bird helicopter dropped out of the sky and a sniper leaned out and fired three shots into the car’s engine block. The car ground to a halt as commandos roped down from hovering Blackhawks, surrounded the car and handcuffed Ato. It was the first known helicopter takedown of suspects in a moving car. The next time Jones saw the magic cane, an hour later, Garrison had it in his hand. “I like this cane,” Jones remembers the general exclaiming, a big grin on his face. “Let’s use this again.” Finally, a tier one personality was in custody." [93] President Bill Clinton withdrew US forces on May 4, 1993. [94]

In June 2006, Al-Qaeda seized control of southern Somalia, including the country's capital Mogadishu, prompting Ethiopia to send in troops to try to protect the transitional government. In December, the Islamic Courts warned Ethiopia they would declare war if Ethiopia did not remove all troops from Somalia. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, leader of the Islamic Courts called for a jihad, or holy war, against Ethiopia and encouraged foreign Islamic fighters to come to Somalia. At that time, the United States accused the group of being controlled by Al-Qaeda, but the Islamic Courts denied that charge. [95]

In 2009, US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) reported that Al-Qaeda had been growing terrorists in Somalia for years. Until December 2006, Somalia's government had no power outside of the town of Baidoa, 150 miles from the capital. The countryside and the capital were run by warlords and militia groups who could be paid to protect terrorist groups. [96]

CIA officers kept close tabs on the country and paid a group of Somali warlords to help hunt down members of Al-Qaeda, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, issued a message calling for all Muslims to go to Somalia. [97] CIA/SAD/SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers have been very successful tracking down and calling in air strikes on Al-Qaeda terrorists. For example, on January 9, 2007, a US official said that ten terrorists were killed in one air strike. [98]

Afghanistan

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Paramilitary Operations Officers were instrumental in training, equipping and sometimes leading Mujaheddin forces against the Red Army. Although the CIA in general and a Texas congressmen named Charlie Wilson in particular, have received most of the attention, the key architect of this strategy was Michael G. Vickers. Vickers was a young Paramilitary Operations Officer from SAD/SOG. The CIA's efforts have been given credit for assisting in ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. [99]

SAD paramilitary teams were active in Afghanistan in the 1990s in clandestine operations to locate and kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. These teams planned several operations, but did not receive the order to execute from President Bill Clinton because the available some believe the intelligence did not guarantee a successful outcome weighed against the extraordinary risk to the SAD/SOG teams that would execute the mission. [100] These efforts did however build many of the relationships that would prove essential in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. [101]

In 2001, SAD units were the first US forces to enter Afghanistan. Their efforts organized the Afghan Northern Alliance for the subsequent arrival of United States Special Operations Command forces. SAD, US Army Special Forces and the Northern Alliance combined to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan with minimal loss to Americans lives. They did this without the need for US military conventional forces. [17][102] [103][104]

The Washington Post stated in an editorial by John Lehman in 2006:

"What made the Afghan campaign a landmark in the U.S. Military's history is that it was prosecuted by Special Operations forces from all the services, along with Navy and Air Force tactical power, operations by the Afghan Northern Alliance and the CIA were equally important and fully integrated. No large Army or Marine force was employed". [105]

According to George Tenet in his book "Center of the Storm", on October 9 2001 Hamid Karzai entered Afghanistan and linked up with his supporters to seize the town of Tarin Kowt. Taliban forces launched a counterattack against Karzai's lightly armed forces and he was forced to withdraw. On November 3, Karzai contacted a member of the CIA's Paramilitary unit identified only as "Greg V.", who immediately acted by linking up with his joint SAD/SOG/US Army Special Forces/Joint Special Operations Command team. From there, they made a nighttime insertion into Tarin Kowt. Karzai then went from village to village seeking support to fight against the Taliban. On November 17, a large battle ensued. Several of Karzai's new recruits fled, but Greg V. took command and ran from defensive position to defensive position shouting, "If necessary, die like men!". The line held and as the Tenet said in his book; "It was a seminal moment. Had Karzai's position been overrun, as appeared likely for much of November 17, the entire future of the Pashtun rebellion in the south could have ended." [106]

Later on December 5, Karzai was leading his resistance force against the Taliban at Khandahar, their capital and one of their last remaining strongholds. Greg V. was the lead advisor to Karzai in this battle, when as a result of a mistake in calculating an air strike by an attached US Air Force combat air controller, a bomb was dropped on their position. "Greg V. threw his body on Karzai and saved his life. Several members of the team were killed. The same day Khandahar fell and Karzai was named the interim Prime Minister." [107]

Tenet wrote; "The routing of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida from Afghanistan in a matter of weeks was accomplished by 110 CIA officers, 316 US Army Special Forces soldiers and a score of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) raiders creating havoc behind enemy lines--a band of brothers with the support of U.S. airpower, following a CIA plan, that has to rank as one of the great successes in Agency history." Several Intelligence Stars were awarded for these activities. [108]

Yemen

On November 5, 2002, a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone killed Al-Qaeda operatives travelling in a remote area in Yemen. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams had been on the ground tracking their movements for months and called in this air strike. [109] One of those in the car was Al-Haitham al-Yemeni, Al-Qaeda's chief operative in Yemen and a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole. Five other people, believed low-level Al-Qaeda operatives, were also killed. [110] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called it "a very successful tactical operation" and said "such strikes are useful not only in killing terrorists but in forcing Al-Qaeda to change its tactics". [111]

Haitham, a native of Yemen known for his bomb-making skills, had been tracked in the hope that he would help lead the United States to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. However, with the May 2005 capture in northwest Pakistan of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, thought to be Al-Qaeda's No. 3 man, security officials worried Haitham would soon go into hiding, and decided to take action. "It's an important step that has been taken in that it has eliminated another level of experienced leadership from Al Qaeda," said Vince Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism for the CIA and current ABC News consultant. "It will help weaken the organization and make it much less effective." [112] [113] Haitham was on the run, pursued by several security forces who were looking for him and Muhammad Hamdi al-Ahdal, another suspect in the USS Cole bombing case. [114]

Iraq

SAD Paramilitary teams entered Iraq before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once on the ground they prepared the battle space for the subsequent arrival of US military forces. SAD teams then combined with US Army Special Forces (on a team called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element or NILE) [115]. This team organized the Kurdish people Peshmerga for the subsequent US-led invasion. This joint team combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al-Qaeda, in a battle for control over the northeast corner of Iraq. This battle was for an entire territory that was completely occupied by Ansar al-Islam and was executed prior to the invasion in February 2003. If this battle had not been as successful as it was, there would have been a considerable hostile force behind the US/Kurdish force in the subsequent assault on Saddam's forces. The US side was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD/SOG and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group (United States). This battle has not been fully covered by the international media, but was a significant direct attack and victory on a key US opponent and terrorist group. It resulted in the deaths of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a Chemical warfare facility at Sargat. [116] Sargat was the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war. [117][118]

SAD/SOG teams also conducted high risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing the dictator, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to and maneuver against the US-led invasion force. [119] [120] SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi Army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started and/or not to oppose the invasion force. [121]

NATO member Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division for the invasion. As a result, the SAD/SOG, US Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga were the entire northern force against Saddam's Army during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 5th Corps of the Iraqi Army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than their moving to contest the coalition force coming from the south. This combined US Special Operations and Kurdish force soundly defeated Saddam's Army, a major military success, similiar to the victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. [122] Four members of the SAD/SOG team received CIA's rare Intelligence Star for their "heroic actions". [123]

The mission that captured Saddam Hussein was called "Operation Red Dawn". It was planned and carried out by JSOC's Delta Force and SAD/SOG teams (together called Task Force 121). The operation eventually included around 600 soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. [124] [125] Special operations troops probably numbered around 40. Much of the publicity and credit for the capture went to the 4th ID soldiers, but CIA and JSOC were the driving force. "Task Force 121 were actually the ones who pulled Saddam out of the hole" said Robert Andrews, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. "They can't be denied a role anymore." [126]

CIA paramilitary units continued to team up with the JSOC in Iraq and in 2007 the combination created a lethal force many credit with having a major impact in the success of the "Surge". They did this by killing or capturing many of the key Al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders. [127][128] In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, pulitzer price winning journalist Bob Woodward described a new special operations capability that allowed for this success. This capability was developed by the joint teams of CIA and JSOC. [129] Several senior US officials stated that the "joint efforts of JSOC and CIA paramilitary units was the most significant contributor to the defeat of Al-Qaeda in Iraq". [130]

Worldwide mission

If there are missions in countries that are denied to U.S. forces, such as Pakistan or Iran, SAD/SOG units are the primary national mission force to execute those operations. [131] In the Global War on Terror, SAD has the lead in the covert war being waged against Al- Qaeda. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams have apprehended many of the senior leaders. These include: Abu Zubaydah [132], the chief of operations for Al-Qaeda; Ramzi Binalshibh [133], the so called "20th highjacker" [134] (a "very, very big fish for us," according to a senior official, "both because he is believed to have played a critical role in the September 11 plot and because he is believed to have been in contact with senior Al Qaida leaders since then")[135]; the mastermind of the September 11 attack Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [136]; and Abu Faraj al-Libi, Al-Qaeda's "field general" believed to have taken the role of No. 3 in al Qaeda following the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. [137] Prior to the beginning War on Terror, SAD/SOG located and captured many notable terrorists and international criminals to include Abimael Guzman, Che Guevara and Carlos the Jackal. These were just three of the over 50 terrorist caught by SAD/SOG just between 1983 and 1995. [138]

In 2002, the Bush administration (which was continued under President Barack Obama) prepared a list of terrorist leaders the CIA is authorized to kill, if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be minimized. The list includes key Al-Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other principal figures from Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. This list is called the "high value target list". [139] The President is not legally required to approve each name added to the list, nor is the CIA required to obtain presidential approval for specific attacks, although the President is kept well informed about operations. [140]

SAD/SOG teams have been dispatched to the country of Georgia, where dozens of Al-Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan are believed to have taken refuge with Chechen separatists and thousands of refugees in the Pankisi Gorge. Their efforts has already resulted in 15 Arab militants linked to Al-Qaeda being captured. [141]

The SAD/SOG teams have also been active in the Philippines, where 1,200 US military advisers helped to train local soldiers in counter-terrorist operations against Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamist group suspected of ties with Al-Qaeda. Little is known about this US covert action program, but some analysts believe that the CIA’s paramilitary wing, the Special Activities Division (SAD), has been allowed "to pursue terrorist suspects in the Philippines on the basis that its actions will never be acknowledged". [142]

SAD/SOG paramilitary officers executed the clandestine evacuation of US citizens and diplomatic personnel in Somalia, Liberia, Iraq (during the Persian Gulf War) and Liberia during periods of hostility, as well as the insertion of Paramilitary Operations Officers prior to the entry of US military forces in every conflict since World War Two. [143]

Recent operations

For a recent example of an SAD/SOG operations see 2008 Abu Kamal raid raid reported on October 26, 2008 inside Syria. In addition, SAD/SOG has been very active "on the ground" inside Pakistan targeting Al-Qaeda operatives for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Predator strikes and along with USSOCOM elements they have been training Pakistani Commandos. [144] Before leaving office, President George Bush authorized the SAD's successful killing of eight senior Al-Qaeda operatives via targeted air strikes. [145] Among those killed were the mastermind of a 2006 plot to detonate explosives aboard planes flying across the Atlantic and the man thought to have planned the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing on 20 September 2008 that killed 53 people. [146] Since taking office, President Barack Obama authorized the continuation of these operations and on 23 January, SAD/SOG successfully killed 20 terrorists in a hideout in northwestern Pakistan. A Pakistani security official stated that these strikes killed at least 10 insurgents, including five foreign nationals and possibly “a high-value target” such as a senior Al-Qaeda or Taliban official. [147] On February 14, the CIA drone killed 27 taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in a missile strike in South Waziristan, a militant stronghold near the Afghan border where Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding. [148]

In a National Public Radio (NPR) report dated February 3, 2008, a senior official stated that Al-Qaeda has been "decimated" by SAD/SOG's air operations. This senior U.S. counterterrorism official goes on to say, "The enemy is really, really struggling. These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we've seen in several years." [149] President Obama's CIA Director Leon Panetta stated that SAD/SOG's efforts in Pakistan have been "the most effective weapon" against senior Al-Qaeda leadership. [150]

Famous paramilitary officers

  • A famous Paramilitary Officer from the OSS during the Second World War was Morris "Moe" Berg, who was previously a Major League Baseball player. He was known for being "the brainiest guy in baseball" [151] than for anything he accomplished in the game. Casey Stengel once described Berg as "the strangest man ever to play baseball".[152] A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Berg a Polyglot and regularly read 10 newspapers a day. As an OSS officer, Berg was parachuted into Yugoslavia to gather intelligence on Yugoslav Front of World War II the Federal government of the United States was considering supporting. He was then sent on a mission to Italy, where he interviewed various physicists concerning the Nazi Germany German nuclear energy program to assess whether they should be assassinated. After the war, Berg worked for the Office of Strategic Services successor, the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • William Colby was another famous OSS Paramilitary Officer. Colby parachuted behind enemy lines into France and Norway during World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions. After the war, Colby went to Columbia Law School and practiced law in William Donovan's law firm. He bored quickly and accepted a position with the CIA, where he ended up serving in many important positions culminating in his becoming the Director of Central Intelligence in 1973. Colby died in 1996 in a boating accident. The circumstances surrounding his death were viewed as suspicious by many. [153] [154] [155][156]
  • Douglas Mackiernan was the first of over 70 officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to be killed in the line of duty. Publicly working under diplomatic cover as a State Department employee, he worked as a covert intelligence officer for the CIA in its earliest days after its creation in 1947. His assignment in Sinkiang included the collection of intelligence about Russian nuclear activities in Western China. Besides this, he fostered anti-communist movement among local tribes. Mackiernan was killed in April, 1950 accidentally by Tibetan outposts as he was trying to flee into Tibet, which was still a free country at the time.
  • Tony Poe was a legendary Paramilitary Operations Officer during the Vietnam War. He is sometimes labeled as the model for the character Colonel Kurtz in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.[18][157] Poe was awarded the Intelligence Star twice, a very rare occurrence. [158] Poe gained the respect of the Hmong forces with practices that were barbaric even by native standards. The Hmong fighters brought him the ears of dead enemy soldiers, and he mailed the ears to the US embassy in Vientiane to prove the body counts. He dropped severed heads onto enemy locations twice in a grisly form of PSYOPS. He was also wounded several times in combat. [159]
  • Sergeant Major (SGM) William Billy Waugh (US Army-Ret.) (born December, 1929), is a highly decorated American United States Army Special Forces soldier and Central Intelligence Agency Paramilitary Operations Officer who served in the United States military and CIA special operations for more than fifty years. Billy Waugh was a Special Forces soldier and served in the Korean War. When the Vietnam War began Waugh was a member of 5th Special Forces Group and joined the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG). While working for SOG, Waugh helped train Vietnamese and Cambodian forces in unconventional warfare tactics primarily directed against the North Vietnamese Army operating along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He received a Silver Star, four Bronze Stars for Valor and eight Purple Hearts. Waugh joined the CIA as a Paramilitary Operations Officer in 1961. He carried out covert operations throughout the world. The most significant of these operations included catching Carlos the Jackal and locating Osama bin Laden in the Sudan. However, Waugh was denied approval to assassinate the Al-Qaeda leader. At the age of 71, Waugh was on the first US team to enter Afghanistan, led by Gary Schroen. During this time, Waugh assisted in defeating the Taliban and in Battle of Tora Bora. [160] [161]
  • Michael G. Vickers (born 1953) is the United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for United States Special Operations Forces and Low intensity conflict. He is a former United States Army Special Forces [162], United States Special Operations Forces officer, and CIA paramilitary operations officer from their elite Special Activities Division. [163] While in the CIA, he played a key role in the arming of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan|Afghan resistance to the Soviets and is considered the architect behind the program that gave the Soviets a significant defeat in the Cold War. [164] His role is featured in George Crile's 2003 book Charlie Wilson's War, and in the 2007 movie adaptation in which he is played by actor Christopher Denham, who is remembered as the character playing chess with several individuals at once.
  • Johnny Micheal Spann, the first American casualty in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), was a Paramilitary Officer in Special Activities Division. [165] Officer Spann was killed in a prison uprising at the Qala-i-Jangi compound at Mazari Sharif. He was killed after interviewing John Walker Lindh who was being held at the same compound. [166] Officer Spann fought off hundreds of prisoners with his rifle and pistol, before running out of ammunition and resorting to hand-to-hand combat. [167] His actions allowed other outnumbered US and Northern Alliance individuals to escape. These forces returned with the British Special Boat Service and Army Special Forces to recover Officer Spann and to defeat the uprising. Officer Spann was awarded the Intelligence Star for his actions. [168]

CIA Memorial Wall

The CIA Memorial Wall is located at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia. It honors CIA employees who died in the line of duty. [169] As of June 2 2008, there were 89 stars carved into the marble wall,[170] each one representing an officer that gave his or her life for their country. [169] Many officers memorialized on this wall also received the Intelligence Star for their valor in a dangerous situation. [171] A black book, called the "Book of Honor," lays beneath the stars and is encased in a inch-thick plate of glass."[170] Inside this book are stars, arranged by year of death, and lists the names of 56 employees who died in CIA service alongside them.[170][169] The other 33 names remain secret, even in death.[169] In 1997, there were 70 stars, 29 of which had names.[170] [172] There were 83 stars in 2004.[173]

An example of the individuals remembered on this Memorial Wall includes Christopher Mueller and William "Chief" Carlson, both Former Paramilitary Operations Officers. On 21 May 2004, these Officer's Star were dedicated at a memorial ceremony. [174] "The bravery of these two men cannot be overstated," Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet told a gathering of several hundred Agency employees and family members of those killed in the line of duty. "Chris and Chief put the lives of others ahead of their own. That is heroism defined." Mueller, a former US Navy SEAL and Carlson, a former Army Special Forces soldier, Delta Force operator, and member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, died while tracking high level terrorists near Shkin, Afghanistan, on October 25, 2003. Both officers saved the lives of others, including Afghan soldiers, during the ambush. [175][176] [177]

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